An influential banker ousted by Nigeria’s central bank and accused of large scale fraud, has been acquitted by a federal judge in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos.
Erastus Akingbola, the former chief executive of Intercontinental Bank, had been in court for three years after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) initiated criminal charges against him, his wife and some of his erstwhile associates.
They were accused of looting Intercontinental Bank’s funds through stockbroking firms and offshore trusts. However Mr Akingbola has been defiant and spent millions on legal costs and a well-orchestrated public relations campaign.
An evangelical Christian, who was close to several Christian leaders, Mr Akingbola has maintained that his travails were the result of a witch-hunt by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the conservative muslim scholar who now leads the apex bank.
Judge Charles Archibong said the EFCC’s posse of Senior Advocates – the country’s elite lawyers – had bungled the case and were guilty of prosecutorial misconduct.
He subsequently dismissed all charges for lack of diligent prosecution. Mr Akingbola and his associate Bayo Dada were facing a 22-count charge of stealing 42.4 billion naira from Intercontinental Bank Plc.
Thr judgement stunned many legal experts and analysts who believed the government had a strong case against the former top banker. Interestingly, the judge had earlier granted the EFCC’s request to amend the charges against Mr Akingbola.
The dismissal comes a week after another judge dismissed the charges against Ndudi Elumelu, a congressman accused of stealing funds meant for rural elctrification.
It is unclear how Akingbola’s dismissal will affect the purchase of Intercontinental Bank Plc by Access Bank PLC, another Nigerian financial institution.